Thursday, July 28, 2016

the forceful wake-up call

Over these past summer weeks of intensive thinking (like intense workout, only you don't use your limbs as much and still get exhausted) I've realised that sometimes, even for an avid writer like myself, you need more of talking than writing (!).

And the more you think. And talk. And don't write, the less inclined you are to write. And for every idea and thought I don't put to *paper* the higher my own quality demands on blog posts get. Thoughts like 'Is this really worth writing about? Can I, should I really share this too? Is this helpful, useful, inspiring enough?', when in fact it is my blog and I write what I want to. And life isn't always, obviously, happy and inspiring. At least not in the usual sense. A lifestyle blog - which to be honest sound so trivial, superficial, dimwitted and boring, but I suppose that's the closest I get describing the World According to me - really is about ups and downs, darkness and light and everything in between. It really doesn't have to be clever, in one way or the other, all the time. Life itself isn't.

We all go through really tough periods in our lives, heartaches and sorrows. Of course that will show in the way we interact with others. As it should. That's life. And perhaps we simply are our worst critics when it comes to the (invisible) demands of being upbeat, inspirational and light? And neither happiness nor sorrow lasts forever, at least not in that initial, intense, overwhelming way. But the latter needs a lot of work, of the think, talk, write kind.

And by doing that, the thoughts and words will repeat themselves many times until they are (reasonably) out of the system, in order to move on. Most likely also repeated over and over again in blog I suspect, different constellations of words, same thought process.

So what has happened since 20 days ago when I decided this will be a summer of thoughts and simple actions? And since I baked awesome vegan cookies? (have you tried them, did you enjoy?)

Surprisingly enough both very little and a lot, I would say.

  • One new thought that striked me this past week is that with this new financial situation, being dependent on just me, myself and I, with lack of the stability that comes from being in a partnership, it actually feels like I'm in my 20ies again, fresh from university, time to build it all up again but now on my own. With three main differences - a) I'm 20 years older and no naive spring chicken anymore (well, I've probably never been that naive really), b) truckloads of experience both professionally and emotionally and c) grown up responsabilities like a house filled with cats and bills to pay. 

This realisation that I'm kind of thrown back to my twenties but in a new life-suit was kind of an aha-experience. And the crazy thing is that it's not only scary, even if it really is, but also quite exilirating. Empowering actually. Forcing me to both be active as well as having faith that things will be alright again, in new, different and in the end very good ways.

  • Still really bummed that I've been done out for a summer in my city because of the commuter train/bus debacle, but at the same time I've had this plethora of hours to really think. On a blanket, on the grass, in the garden, in the sun or the shadow, with furry critters. And reading quite a few books I've related a lot too (it's indeed strange how all of them have resonated lots in my current situation without me actively chosing to read them because of that. They have simply appeared). I'm so happy for my house, for my garden, for the tykes. There have been not only good thoughts, but lots of honest and useful thoughts, going through options and solutions and strategies.

And the few times (limited to two occasions per week to keep my stress levels down) I've had meetups in the city I've treasured those moments all the more.

And guess what, now it's almost only one week left until the trains run as usual again! How awesome is that. I'm going to do the summer city like crazy, use my travel card and just walk around on my own, discover new areas, enjoying the change of scenery not having to stress out over the awful bus rides. Having lunches and coffees with friends coming back from summer holidays. Grab every inch of those 3,5 last weeks of summer. It's going to be great.

  • In mid July I had a second meeting with my new accountant, I dreaded it a bit because of the current financial status, but she continued to be really helpful, explaining the hows and the whys and calming my worries. This time it took me 3 hours one way though, so yay, basically 6 hours spent on buses only that day to get there and home. As nice as Norrtälje is to visit, it's much nicer when you can go by car and it takes about one hour. But the annual closing is done now so I don't have to think about our next meeting until next spring. 

  • Last week I was contacted by a London-based agency for a three weeks' gig as a social media manager for a well-known brand's Swedish social channels. We did actually agree on the hourly fees - which is a surprise given that I've been contacted by so many London-based agencies as a freelancer and they have always, always offered offensively low fees, compared to what I've been offered from agencies in other countries and compared to the hourly rates I work for in Sweden, that I've until now declined. Being a freelancer not a serf, you know. - so I'm now working my first fun week of that.

I really enjoy working as a social media manager, but I'm not sure I'd enjoy it as much if it was full-time or for an infinite time. The strategies are already set, you are much more constrained than you can imagine and you're basically an obedient tool. That said I do enjoy getting a peak view of different brands' approaches to social media, how very different their strategies can be, how more or less efficient everything is organised, how hierarchically business are run in some countries compared to others. 

  • Got a call about one of the jobs I've applied for a while back - one I stumbled over in a Facebook group I rarely visit - and we've set up a meeting after the holidays ie August 28, for a job that starts early September. I would of course loved to have had that interview next week already, but well, glad I got that call at all of course! It's a 50% communicator maternity leave cover for 10ish months, two train stations away and I would absolutely love getting the job. It would be a great opportunity to do some good, meet new people (but not having to grind with them 9-5 five days a week), get an interesting, professionally useful experience, get the bills paid, save up and at the same time give me 50% to continue running my own business. Not to mention it's in the opposite direction of the rush hours into the city, farther out at the end station of my line so I don't have to stress about the rush hours either. Seems perfect really. Fingers, toes and paws crossed.

Overall, despite sadness and worries, ups and downs from one day to another, I feel like I'm in a good flow right now. The Zone even. I'm so grateful for that and I do hope the flow will continue to be generous with its sprinkles of real goodness.

The sudden, shocking passing of M has been a really sad wake-up call, forcing me to address life changes I know (and knew) I really needed to make even before. I feel I'm quite a few steps down the road of redefining myself already. I just wish these necessary life changes had happened under less heartbreaking circumstances. But at the same time I accept that perhaps something as tragic and drastic as the death of someone very important in my life was the wake-up call I needed to go through with these necessary changes. When you aren't brave enough to make those changes on your own, life has a tendency to abruptly force you to make them. The realisation of that doesn't lessen the sorrow per se, but it does make me accept it, working for and being open to a new life. A great one to come.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

vegan hallongrottor cookies

These simple cookies are a classic Swedish bake which is originally called 'hallongrottor' (ie 'raspberry caves'), and not thumbprint cookies as they are commonly known as abroad. To be honest I've never been a great fan, they're a bit granny-ish, not very exciting and difficult to get just right in texture if you (like me) prefer them a bit chewy.

However, after discovering there is now a liquid dairy free butter available that doesn't contain palm-oil (!) I felt I had to try a bit of baking with it. And simple cookies with few ingredients would be the perfect choice. So I made these. And I was surprised at how easy they was to make and how adorable they turned out. Not chewy alas, but still quite nice with a cup of tea and a good book.

The original flavour is vanilla, but I tried making them in a chocolate version too. But I have to say that the usual match made in heaven combo of chocolate and raspberries wasn't a hit.

~30 cookies

200 g dairy-free liquid butter (I used the one from Coop)
1 dl caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla sugar
4,5 dl white flour
raspberry jam (I love the jam from ICA, so much raspberry flavour)

(if you want to make them in chocolate add 1 tbsp cacao)

Set the oven to 175C.

Whisk the butter, sugar and vanilla sugar (and cacao) together. Then add the flour and gently whisk together into a smooth dough. 

Roll them into ~30 small balls on a baking-plate with baking sheet. Use your thumb to imprint a small 'cave' and fill them with a dollop of raspberry jam (about 0,5 tsp per cookie).

Bake them for around 12 minutes. Let them cool on sheet. Enjoy! Freeze well too.

Friday, July 08, 2016

the thoughtful life

It's been a while since I last blogged. The (over)thinking, living, worrying, figuring out, problem solving, planning process does take a lot of time. And not every day is very productive in regards of that. But I also believe that I have every right to be kind to myself when it comes to rest and relaxation. So with that in mind the progress of redefining myself is slow. Or perhaps this is just what it is, must be, a mix of faster and slower days - 

though to be honest (and what's the point of not being that, life is short...) I blame the slowness pretty much on the summer public transportation chaos for us stockholmers depending on commuter trains. I wish I could simply take the train to the city, as usual, have a change of scenery, go for walks, sit myself down on a bench or a lawn, look at different views and think, plan, look ahead. But I can't, because the chaotic stress of the replacement buses I've limited my trips to the city to max twice per week. And I always know that those days there will be a lot of hassle and time spent on hot buses, bad communication, cranky people and overall a lot of nuisance, so the change of scenery and inspiration always comes at the cost of stress and exhaustion. But there's only so much enjoyment and inspiration you can get, despite this being a beautiful suburb, from walking the similar routes with no change of scenery and being pretty much a social recluse. 

If you don't have a car or driver's license - which I usually don't miss - this really highlights how incredibly reliant you are on the public transportation working flawlessly. Especially in a period of very special circumstances.

Of course this too shall pass. And for that reason I do immensly look forward to August 8 when the trains are on again and the daily travel limitations are lifted. But I'm also sad that most of the summer will then have gone by without me really being able to enjoy it the way I would so have wanted to.

By then I will have read a lot of books though.

for things to sink in and change, real change, progress, to happen.

Since my life currently, and more than ever, revolves a lot about thinking and processing, analyzing and planning I find that the little things and delights I used to blog about seem so trivial. That by writing about them - 

How I really enjoy my new organic morning muesli.
How I took the time to complain to the customer service about the annoying time spent trying to pay for my fika with partly coffee card partly with a regular card resulted in me getting a generous amount of money refunded to my coffee card.
How I really would love to get the most adorable, happy budgie skirt but that the current financial situation doesn't allow such frivolities.
How I actually did get a cute narrow pleats skirt dress the other week which practically costed nothing since I was able to pay for it with 'vintage money' (ie a voucher check for returning old clothes I no longer use. It's a Gudrun Sjödén thing.). A dress I had no idea about if I hadn't seen it on a friend's Instagram. A dress that was sold out both online and in most stores but that I walked all over town to different shops and was able to find the right size in the perfect colour. A colour I didn't know was perfect until I tried it on.
How happy I am that there's now a liquid non dairy butter/oil (with no palm oil) which makes baking vegan so much easier and tastier.
How grown up I felt when I, after the initial hysteria, managed to sort out all by myself what was wrong with my iPhone touch display which made the phone unusable. And that the following week's major issues with the mobile internet connection not working made me finally unsubscribe from the overpriced subscription. That I did my research and realised that other companies offer much better deals. And that they have much better customer services. That I just went with my gut feeling of enough is enough. 
How amazingly delicious sesame seed breaded tofu is.
The sheer joy of welcoming the first hedgehog of 2016 in the garden.

- I trivialize the really important things and feelings.

But life really is made up of both true tragedies, unexpected incidents, life turning accidents as well as seemingly minor matters and silly luxuary problems. And that one probably wouldn't be able to cope with the former if the latter didn't exist.

I'm also struggling with two recurrent worries. One is obviously the 'this will not be a fair and decent aftermath' since I have no legal status. And how easy that worry could be solved by being open and honest in communicating and status updates (phone calls and emails). Instead I am left completely clueless on how things are progressing. And the scenarios of the hows and the whys are playing on repeat in my head. 

Should I simply close the social doors to that part of my life, the shared memories of M, just focus forward and only trust my own problem solving capacity? Or should I be open to the possibility of good will and fairness from there? Both alternatives have positive and negative implications. And honestly, my gut feeling sways from day to day. I just wish I didn't have to spend so much time worrying. Or let myself worry. Perhaps needlessly so, perhaps not.

The other worry is in the shape of how much should I actively push forward and how much should I just let myself relax and have faith (in an atheist way of course) that solutions will come when they are needed? 

And which active solution is the right one, do I really want to be employed again or should I simply adopt an aggressive (oh noes) approach looking for more clients? Granted it was really nice to get a paycheck after my May gig, not having to deal with employment taxes and such. But I know in my heart that running my own business and being a freelancer has made me so happy over these past few years. However the uninevitable unstable income curve is not something I can afford or work through now. For me getting back to financial stability is a key factor to healing. And growing.

And that's how far I've come on the path of redefining myself. Some things are out of my control, others are not. Figuring out how and what to procede with now - what can I do to worry less, and which approach is best in both short and longterm ways? Can I do something more, else, different than I already do? - I guess that's what the summer of 2016, the summer of chaotic public transport, is for.
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